By Nicole Nemeth
Being a student is difficult enough without the added responsibilities of being a parent.
Fortunately for Conestoga College students there are a ton of services to help them achieve success.
Different services include counselling, health services, financial aid and daycare, all of which are on Conestoga’s main campus in Kitchener.
Krystle McGuire knows all too well how difficult it can be raising a family and attending college. She received her registered practical nurse diploma earlier this year with distinction. During her second year at college she had a three-year-old daughter and was pregnant. Now she’s continuing her education at home by taking an online program, perinatal nursing, through Conestoga.
When asked what her biggest challenge as a student-parent was McGuire said, “Trying to juggle being a good student as well as a good mother.”
For student-parents who find themselves feeling overwhelmed there are counsellors available between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday, for students who need someone to talk to about personal or academic needs.
Common concerns pregnant and parenting students discuss with counsellors, according to Lynn Robbins White, a Conestoga College counsellor, include medical issues, finances, continuing with academics, community resources, dealing with stress, balancing life at home, daycare and the different options they have.
Robbins White hopes she can help struggling students who are parents. “As long as we can help them move through the process of what they want to do, narrow down what it is they want and open up all the services that they can use.”
There are also doctors on campus who students can see for a number of reasons such as pregnancy tests, prenatal care up to 26 weeks and birth control.
Although it’s best to try and book an appointment ahead of time, same day appointments are sometimes available and a walk-in clinic nurse is available on-site during office hours. Health Services is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Part of the college tuition automatically goes to health benefits through CSI. If a student wishes to add a dependent to their benefits through the student association there is the optional family add-on. However, it will cost extra money and has to be done before the cut-off date which depends on when the student starts school.
“While we don’t have any financial aid specifically set aside for pregnant and/or parenting students, family size is one of the key variables that we use to determine the degree of financial support needed for OSAP as well as for awards, scholarships and bursaries,” said Patrick Bennett, Conestoga’s financial aid and awards manager.
Bennett also said that during the OSAP assessment, students who have dependents are eligible for the Canada Study Grant for Persons with Dependents, which provides non-repayable grant support.
Fortunately for Conestoga students there is a child-care centre on the Doon campus. The child-care centre is open to college faculty, staff, students and the local community. Since spaces are limited and operate on a first-come, first-serve basis it’s important for any student, or person considering Conestoga College, to put a request in right away.
Subsidies are also available to qualifying families and it is recommended that anyone interested in more information on fee subsidy call any one of the child-care centres for more information. Conestoga College operates a number of centres including Silverheights Child Care Centre, Glencairin Child Care, Driftwood Park Child Care Centre and Doon Campus Child Care Centre.
“It’s such a great accomplishment to be a parent, or become a parent, and still continue through school,” Robbins White said.